When there is an accident involving a bus with innocent children on board, most people will respond with anger or rage. They want to blame and seek retribution from the driver or owner of the bus concerned. This is of course completely understandable – there are thousands of parents all across the country, who, on a daily basis put their children’s lives in the hands of a bus driver. It is only natural for people to think: “What if this happens to MY child and MY family?”, “What can I do when that happens?”, “Will I be able to afford medical treatment?” or “Surely someone must pay?”
There is, however, two sides to the story. Most bus drivers and companies go to great lengths to provide a safe and reliable transport service to their community. No good, hardworking and well-trained bus driver drives a bus full of children, to intentionally cause an accident. Nor does an owner of a bus company, whom has a reputation to uphold and who invests everything he has in his drivers, employees and vehicles, put un-roadworthy busses on the roads to cause accidents on purpose. A lot of accidents are caused by factors which are outside of the control of the driver or the owner of the bus, such as poor road conditions, adverse weather, stray animals, jaywalking pedestrians, and of course, other irresponsible road-users.
The fact of the matter is, we all make mistakes and accidents do happen. Some errors and the subsequent accidents just have more devastating consequences than others. How we prepare for, mitigate and manage those consequences after the event, are the actual questions that really need to be focused upon.
The Road Accident Fund
Fortunately, victims of motor vehicle accidents have the Road Accident Fund (RAF) that has been specifically established by law (i.e. the Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996, as amended – “the RAF Act”) to administer the system of compensation for damages suffered due to bodily injuries or death caused by the negligent driving of a motor vehicle. The RAF is financed by a levy on all fuel consumed in South Africa. Every person, even non-South African citizens, have a right to claim compensation against the RAF if they have suffered injuries or the breadwinner dies in a motor vehicle accident, which occurred within the borders of South Africa.